Last year was a solid year for animation, consisting of several popular hits including Wreck-It Ralph and Brave, along with less-seen but still quality films such as ParaNorman, Frankenweenie, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. All of the above were deservedly nominees in the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars, but no clear winner was in sight. Pixar’s Brave had picked up momentum in recent months, taking the top animation prize at the Golden Globes. After sitting out the category at last year’s Academy Awards, Pixar was looking to reclaim the spot that it had all but claimed ownership over in recent years.
After the Animated Feature category was established for 2001, Pixar nabbed the prize six times going into last night, an astounding feat considering there were two years within that span that the studio did not release a feature film. With Cars 2 failing to receive a nomination last year, another year without an Oscar for its feature film would practically be a drought for the Emeryville-based studio.
The Oscars, fashioning its new official name after being called The Academy Awards for decades, were held last night at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, and Brave did take home the prize for Best Animated Feature. Co-directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman took the stage to accept the award. Andrews thanked Pixar Brain Trust members John Lasseter, Ed Catmull, Jim Morris, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter, along with the film’s producer, Katherine Sarafian. He also extended his gratitude to Chapman for developing the story. Chapman expressed her thanks to her daughter, Emma – the mother-daughter relationship between Merida and Queen Elinor was largely inspired by Chapman’s own relationship with her daughter.
When Wreck-It Ralph was released back in November, it became the frontrunner for many critics to capture the various animation awards. Along with Frankenweenie, it started out awards season on top of critics’ lists for best in animation, although following Brave‘s performance at the Golden Globes and its success at the BAFTAs (essentially the British version of the Oscars), there seemed to be a shift back towards Pixar’s court.
This is the first Oscar for Pixar since Toy Story 3 delivered one of the studio’s most successful awards seasons, with the film not only topping many animation lists, but also placing in many “best films of the year” lists, culminating in the capturing of a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. While Brave was not lauded universally like the Toy Story film, this Oscar win has put the studio back on top, albeit for a short period of time before it is tested once more.
With Disney, Dreamworks, Laika, Aardman, and other animation studios seemingly closing the gap that Pixar had extended over the years, some may view that as a negative for Pixar. I choose to see that as a positive for the animation industry as a whole – better animated films from a collection of the studios, including Pixar, will only encourage healthy competition and help to chip away at the long-standing belief that animated films are for children. If the studios continue to stress the importance of developing a strong story with complex characters, I believe that animation has some great years on the horizon.